Investment properties are successfully decreasing their carbon emissions and reducing their energy use, according to a new study from the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Greenprint Center for Building Performance. Volume 3 of the "Greenprint Performance Report" examines data from 2,703 properties, representing a total of 65 million square feet of space in 46 countries. Of the total buildings surveyed in volume three, year-over-year data was available for 60 percent of participating properties (1,628 properties). In examining year-over-year comparisons between 2010 and 2011, researchers found that carbon emissions declined 8.2 percent, which the ULI estimates is the equivalent of nearly 1.06 million barrels of unconsumed oil, more than 89,100 cars taken off the road, and  11.7 million trees planted. In addition, energy use decreased 4.4 percent, saving 140 million kWh; water usage declined 3.1 percent; and occupancy dropped by 1.2 percent.

The report measures and benchmarks energy, emissions, and water usage, and the database of buildings examined in the report represents major property investment types such as office, multifamily, retail, industrial, and hotel space. Energy use is examined through property energy use intensity (EUI, calculated as the annual kWh per meter squared in rentable area), while greenhouse gas emissions are divided into three scopes in accordance with the World Resources Institute/WBCSD’s greenhouse gas protocol. The three scopes are added to determine the total building emissions. Water data examines that which is consumed for indoor use, outdoor use, and irrigation purposes. The Greenprint report, however, only accounted for water consumption for indoor use, when available, and whole meter data otherwise.

The highest percentage of properties examined in the study, 45.7 percent, represents office space. Data for the properties managed by Greenprint Center’s  29 member companies is based entirely on voluntary contributions from members.

Other study findings include: 

  • American office properties are more efficient than their European, Middle East and African (EMEA) and Asia- Pacific counterparts, with median office EUI standing at 212 for American properties, 251 for Asia- Pacific properties, and 344 for EMEA . 

  • Poland, at 383, has the most intensive median EUI for office properties in the current year. The lowest is Japan at 192. 

  • In retail properties, however, Americans were the most energy intensive, topping out at an EUI of 568, versus 450 for Asia Pacific retail properties and 444 for EMEA properties. And in multifamily properties, Americans used far more energy in common area spaces, reporting a median of EUI of 335 compared to a median EUI of 83 in Asia- Pacific properties. 

  • In year-over-year greenhouse gas emissions, the Americas saw the largest decrease with -9.12 percent, while Asia Pacific reported an increase of 9.78 percent. European properties reported a decrease of 2.36 percent. 

  • In comparing like-for-like properties (a total of 621), office properties saw a decrease of 3.2 percent in water use year-over-year from 2010 to 2011, the largest decrease of office, retail, industrial, and multifamily spaces. Industrial properties and retail properties saw an increase, with retail water use rising 4.8 percent and industrial jumping 30.9 percent.

The report is online at greenprintfoundation.org.